Remembering the legend

1

by Conrad Maclean

The man was nearly seven feet tall and skinny as a joint, with dark hair and a smile on his weather beaten face. His accent was the child of the many countries he’s lived in. He reminded me of Struwwelpeter, that boy you get told about as a kid who never washes or cuts his nails and hair.

If the local cricket team was playing near his house, he’d sit at home and shoot potatoes onto the playing field with his homemade cannon. It was his way of showing team support. He’d been known to sit on an aeroplane with a bag of fruit, and if the airhostess told him ‘you can’t take that through customs,’ he’d go from seat to seat offering his fellow passengers a piece of fruit so it didn’t go to waste.

Planet Earth never produced a nicer guy.

When we met him he had swum the darkest swamps of the human psyche, lost most his family and danced with some pretty awful demons. Though personal horrors had left scars, he had amazing positivity, wisdom and a never ending stream of bawdy jokes.

“Hey Conrad, why didn’t Snow white go to the ball?”

“I don’t know,” I’d say. “Why?”

“Because she’s fucking Dopey.”

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The year was nineteen eighty-something.

What had started as a protest over municipal housing had collapsed into street fighting between the police and protesters, whose demonstration had been hijacked by local anarchists.

The anarchists were brilliantly strategic. This was an era before mobile phones and the anarchists realised that the police were communicating with vans with satellite dishes attached to them. All the anarchists had to do was take out the vans and dozens of police officers would be immobilised.

My friend’s job was to walk up to one of these vans wearing a trench coat. He’s have a chain wrapped around his waist, under the coat. He’d clip one end of the chain to the door of the van, walk a lap around the vehicle and clip the other end of the chain to that same door. My friend would yell “NOW!” protesters would charge at the van and push it on to its side. The chain would stop anybody in the van escaping. Police communication was quickly crippled.

The battle raged for days. Rioters blockaded the areas of the city they controlled by stockading the streets with junk. They created walls with any crap they could find. By the light of bonfires they sat and guarded this fortress into the night, smoking reefer and playing music.

What happened next came out of nowhere. My friend would later say, ‘They must have been kept hidden under the city.’ His theory was that they had been hidden underground, after the Nazis had been pushed out at the end of World War 2; a secret weapon to defend the city in case of another invasion. Nobody really knows where they came from but it sure wasn’t from outside the city.

What were ‘they’?

Leopard Tanks. They smashed through the barricades as if they were butter, ending the protest for good.

My friend skipped his native country after that, he said they were onto him and his phone was being bugged. He needed to lay low.

Eventually he drifted into Australia.

I never met somebody who had so many adventures, so much joy and so much pain. It’s been nearly two years since he passed on. We’re sorry to have lost him but even luckier to have known such a great guy.

R.I.P mate

Ascending the Mountain

by Maddison Coonan

The first time I attempted to ascend the mountain it was a trying experience. It may not have ended in an avalanche, but it certainly began with the checking, double-checking and triple-checking of the supplies and safety harness. I suppose I can be slightly overcautious, but when you engage in an activity such as mountain climbing it is of the utmost importance to feel reassured.

After all, plunging to your grisly death down a blizzardly rock is perhaps not the best way to find out that your safety equipment is older than the mountain itself.

I made my first attempt on a Thursday afternoon. Gloomy clouds were murmuring to each other in the sky, but that was to be expected. I began my mental preparation. I envisioned myself sprinting to the summit in a day, my supplies ricocheting off my back, the people of Australia cheering me on from their lounge rooms.

Then there was reality. It turns out I could barely walk three steps. I was persuaded that if I thought positively, inspiration would soon gush out of the soles of my boots and lift me up to the peak. Well, I did receive some inspiration, but it was more of an ooze than a gush. Maybe it can still be an adventure, I thought to myself hopefully.

Adventure it was not. I slipped and slid toward the base of the snowy protuberance, my heart racing, my eyes screwed shut by fear. I could feel my back aching from my attempt to shield myself from the soul-piercing cold, and my stomach whining due to lack of nutrients.

I began to question why I even wanted to do this in the first place. This was a momentous climb; perhaps I should have chosen Mount Kosciusko instead of Mount Everest. After all, it would be safer, less daunting.

NO! I told myself firmly. I just needed a new strategy, a change in technique. Now, I thought, why would I do that? I could always just try again. I suppose I could wear a red jacket. Red is the colour of confidence, right? Yes, but this is not a self-confidence issue, I told myself scathingly, this is a question of mentality.

Back to the lodge I went. While sipping a steaming mug of hot chocolate in front of the roaring fire, it struck me. No harness! I could do the climb without a harness! OK, OK, I know; it was not the safest route, but I was convinced that if this new method was to work than I would at least be able to actually begin ascending, rather than descending the landmark.

Not snow. But cold and pointy so you get the point. Photo by: Madura McCormack

Not snow. But cold and pointy so you get the point. Photo by: Madura McCormack

The next morning, I rose early, admiring the beauty of the snowflakes that floated like angels across my window, obscuring my view of the mountain. I suppose I should have seen that as a warning, but I had come so far, I wanted to at least enjoy it while I could. Harness or no harness, I needed to at least try to climb the tallest mountain in the world.

I ate my breakfast in a hurry, not too concerned by the fact that the other climbers were huddled around the T.V in the living room. They were whispering frantically, looking at each other with grim expressions. I thought their favourite programme had been cancelled; they were always very serious.

After breakfast, I dressed, collected my supplies and trudged toward the mountain. The sky’s expression had darkened and the snow had thickened like ivy, but I was ready. I decided to acquaint myself with the terrain first before I embarked on the steeper parts of Everest.

This is just a practice climb, I told myself, nothing wrong with stumbling and stalling. The first 100 metres took me almost two and half hours to complete. I felt the weight of my decision manifest in the burning sensation in my calf muscles.

Suddenly, the beauty of the snowflakes melted into the fury of winter as the avalanche’s roar echoed. My heart pounded against my brain. I was frozen. I tried to morph my body into a cocoon, but it was too late; masses of snow were stampeding toward me.

I screamed. I was suffocating in a sea of slush, my body was being spliced. My skin became paper as it was torn to shreds. My blood became ink as it splattered my skin. I kept tumbling and tumbling and tumbling, until…silence.

I opened my eyes. My breath came in rasps and my vision was blurred, but I could feel a breeze wafting around my being, gently tickling my skin. My skin! I started, remembering the heavy injuries I had sustained. I glanced down anxiously. The joints in my fingers were tingling with pain and my arms were an inky black, but apart from those minor annoyances I was unharmed. At least, I was physically unharmed.

Starting at the screen in front of me, the cursor was was flashing violently, gloating at my failure. I looked nervously at the notes that I had abandoned. They stared at me in disgust.

‘I know, I should have trusted you,’ I said half-apologetically, half-wearily to the scribbled paragraphs. My fingers began to ache again. I sighed. Writing really was hard.

Reaching the top. Can I rest now? Photo by: Madura McCormack

Reaching the top. Can I rest now? Photo by: Madura McCormack

Those Curls

by Adam Semple Her curls seemed to fill the room. They were dense and bold, seemingly hydrophobic and certainly in some ancient culture would have been used as a protective layer, but in this instance they were there for beauty and bust, and this is exactly what they were achieving. Her personality and hair were in sync, matched like a specific wine to a specific plate of food. A certain coherence existed between her hair and her exuberance, she charged around the coffee shop in an emotionally invested state of energy, not stopping to give staff her orders but halting only to make small talk with the most handsome of customers. I imagine that the potency of her steps must at some stage of the day lead to an equally forceful crashing of energy, but we, the onlookers, certainly never witness such a thing, and are left to make the mere assumption that she must, if nothing else, sleep exceptionally well at night. Occasionally, if an oppressive customer enters the scene, The Curly Haired Machine will expose the outer edges of what could be an explosive bomb, however, wrong I was. And like the sun she not only glowed (with ambition and ability) but also controlled that inner fire and expelled it only fractionally, for the good of us all. Like a solar flare, I thought to myself. Occasional disarray takes over in the shop. People always arrive at the same time and the Domino effect comes into its prime in a team-work environment where every action is completely reliant on its predecessor. So bustling in come’s the boss and within a flash she is not so much as conquering an important task but providing what she does best, the lifting of moral, vocally and through that abundant presence of golden ringlets. It may be the tequila espresso she brings us in moments of gloom but it’s a good vibe regardless of circumstance, and that’s the sensation we all feel. Every now and then the whole cafe would rumble. An intensity of laughter so vigorous and hearty, so genuine, it engulfs all in vibrational range. Like an alarm clock, it awakens us to the sounds of life. All in our closed worlds, so easy to forget we’re on a star rolling through space and all of a sudden this penetrating injection of happiness shakes us out of our mindlessness. That’s what it does. We are focusing on what we are supposed to focus on and then it happens, that sound, those notes, and we are shaken back into the realisation that whatever it is we’re doing means nothing and really all that matters is that laugh and sharing that laugh with others. Everything that comes out of this coffee house is a reflection of those curls. The staff, those muffins, and the punch received after drinking that espresso, it’s all refracted through those ringlets. They make you want more of life, like that laugh, give me more! Needless to say the customers tend to leave in a better mood than when they arrived. Let’s be honest, that’s the nature of the beast in the coffee shop business: enter low and exit high. Here though, in this cafe, on this polished concrete and below these hanging lights, there is another force at work, those curls.

Photo: Adam Semple

Photo: Adam Semple

This story originally appeared in Metior Magazine, Edition #1 2014